T Nation

Isolation Before Compounds?


I always believed you shouldn't start with a compound exercise e.g. if you're working shoulders you should do rear delts before military press. Could you please shed some light on this please because I'm getting conflicting views. Cheers


The general practice is the exact opposite: rather, the standard practice is to do isolation movements afterwards.

An exception can be, but still usually isn't, if for a brief period of time -- not more than a few weeks, not as ongoing practice -- specializing on a given muscle or small number of muscles.

As personal opinion, if doing the isolation movement first does not detectably decrease performance in the compound movement, then it's okay to do those exercises in that order if desired. But it's not the general practice.


Oh I see cheers. So basically the exercise I do first will grow bigger, as opposed if I did it last for example.


i would have thought also performing isolation on a specific muscle before compound excercises would activate that certain muscle to perform before the others is that right??

or would doing that fatigue it and allow the others to be activated more so??

either way it could be beneficial for the specific muscle group.


I didn't think the question was referring to pre-exhaustion -- that is to say, doing the exercises as a superset with virtually no rest between -- but rather simply to exercise order, there being rest and set-up time between exercises.

But yes, "before" doesn't specify how long before. I just didn't think he meant near-zero rest.


I used the term "pre exhaust" incorrectly in another post,sorry man, but I do place some isolation movements before a compound movement but it is not a superset. I usually only do this for delts and my reason is that when I do laterals first( width is a priority) I feel that I am making them work harder when I do the presses. I have fairly well developed triceps that seem to take over in OHP. I have tried it both ways and I feel that the laterals first works better for me and does not take away from my OHP stength.


Actually I wasn't referring to your post on that, but rather that it seemed to me that MODOK was referring to the HIT method of pre-exhaustion, which I agree is just not the way to train on an ongoing basis.

Yeah, a person might maybe try doing laterals immediately before overhead presses, virtually no rest, as a shock type of thing for a brief period of time if that floats his boat, but as an ongoing training method, as MODOK was saying that is not the way to go unless there is some unusual reason for it such as he explained.



"Isolation exercises can also be used as a learning tool when it comes to muscle recruitment. If you have trouble making your chest grow, for example, it could be due to an inability to recruit the high-threshold motor units within that muscle group, the ones with the greatest growth potential. You probably have a hard time feeling your pecs work when you're bench pressing.

There's a quick and easy solution and that's using the pre-fatigue method. Do an isolation exercise for your chest â?? a chest flye â?? immediately before the bench press. You'll get a better sense of your pecs working on the latter exercise. This improves your mind-muscle connection, and you'll eventually become better at recruiting your pecs. "


That would count as a special reason for a limited time, not a reason to do that on an ongoing basis, IMO.

I also really question the premise behind it. I have done that because my earliest years of training were, sadly, HIT. I am not at all sure about it helping mind/muscle connection and if anything, weakening the pectorals before bench pressing is going to teach the body how to bench press with LESS pec involvement, as it is having to make do with less pec strength, rather than more pec involvement.

You will NOT find successful powerlifters, for example, using this method. But if it were as excellent as claimed for increasing mind/muscle connection, why would they not? Well maybe because it is not good for that.

Maybe good for teaching a complete beginner what the pecs feel like when contracting, though.


Hey, CT said it not me. Just giving him another possible answer. The1andOnly, please don't take offense, but judging by he question/join date/number of posts I also kinda' figured he might just be getting his feet wet, so I thought I'd throw it out there.


Oh, I didn't mean it as criticism of you at all.

I think that you would see CT recommending it also only for specialized reasons and limited times rather than the routine, ongoing method of training. Very often he discusses things that are for specialized reasons and limited times of use.


Yes iv been training for a few months concentrating on nutrition trying to get it down to a T. Just asking some question to optimise my time at the gym, all very useful information. Especially with the Mind/muscle which is obviously very hard but in a number of exercises I find it hard to really feel the muscle do the worker. Rather in a sense just whacking out the most weight to around 3 sets and 8 reps, without actually getting the muscle I'm training to do the work.


thats wat i was trying to say but didnt come out quite as clear as that.


Dorian used & uses isolation before compounds. You can see in both of his movies he's 'starred' in.

But he did call it "pre-exhaust." But he did with every body part 'isolations' first.

He said in the 2nd film with Dugdale that it was so that less weight is needed on the heavy compound movements to prevent injuries and other issues that arise from throwing heavy iron around - not an exact quote.


But I do agree with Bill.

Compounds then isolation is the usual.


Cheers guys. nice physique retailboy, looking to get to about your size in the not so distant future.